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Notary Bulletin

Quiz: Elements Of A Satisfactory ID

Issues with identification documents are common, even if they are genuine. What if the signer’s name on the ID doesn’t quite match what’s being signed? Or if the signer wants to present a photocopy of a driver’s license? Test your knowledge of what elements are needed for a satisfactory ID and which aren’t acceptable.




1. A photocopy of an identification document:

A. May be accepted as proof of identity if physically signed by the bearer
B. Can only be accepted if another Notary affixes a seal to the ID
C. Should never be accepted as identification for a notarization
D. Is always acceptable as proof of a signer’s identity

Answer: C. A photocopy of an ID such as a driver’s license should never be accepted as satisfactory evidence of a signer’s identity. Without the original ID in hand, the Notary has no way of knowing if a photocopied image has been tampered with or altered to show incorrect information.

2. If a signer’s last name on an ID does not match the name on the document:

A. An alternate ID with the matching name or credible identifying witnesses should be used instead
B. The ID can still be accepted if the signer is a woman who recently married
C. An “AKA” signature may be used, if the receiving agency is agreeable
D. Either A or C.

Answer: D. There are situations where a signer’s name may have been changed from the original name appearing on identification documents — for example, when someone gets married. However, a Notary can’t accept an ID document if the last name on the ID doesn’t match the name on the document. In such cases, an alternative approach must be used. The signer may use credible identifying witnesses or an alternate ID with the name appearing on the document, or — if the receiving agency is willing — sign both version of the name using an “Also Known As” or “AKA” signature. If an “AKA” signature is used, the Notary must remember to write only the name appearing on the ID in the certificate wording, and should make a note that an “AKA” signature was used in the journal.

3. If state law does not specify acceptable forms of signer ID, the NNA recommends asking for signer ID that includes all of the following:

A. Phone, Address and Social Security number
B. Photograph, Description and Signature
C. Address, Issuance Date and Serial Number
D. Photograph, Expiration Date and Phone

Answer: B. If state law does not specify what type of ID may be presented for a notarization, the NNA recommends asking signers to provide an identification document that includes a photograph, description of the signer and signature. Each of these elements can be used to verify the person appearing before the Notary is who they claim to be. The photograph and description enable the Notary to verify that the person physically appearing matches the individual described on the ID, while the signature can be used to check for discrepancies when the person signs the document being notarized.

4. True or False. A birth certificate is considered a satisfactory form of signer ID for a notarization.

Answer: False. Not only does a birth certificate lack a photograph, description or signature of the signer, but copies of another person’s birth certificate can be obtained through recording offices, which makes birth certificates extremely unreliable as a means to verify a signer’s identity.

5. True or False: If a signer lacks a satisfactory ID document, they can be identified by one or more credible witnesses instead.

Answer: True. A credible witness is essentially a “human ID card” who swears or affirms the signer’s identity so that a notarization can take place. The ideal credible witness should not have any interest or benefit in the document being notarized. State laws regarding credible witness requirements vary; always be sure to follow your own jurisdiction’s statutes when using one or more credible witnesses to identify a signer.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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